Alliance Mini Grantees Overview

The Alliance for Healthy Homes and Communities awarded ten mini grants for projects that have innovative strategies to improve the health, housing and well being of Minnesotans.Thanks to the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation for making these grants possible.

Alliance for Sustainability Integrate healthy homes education and behavior change into the 10 suburban Living Green Fairs.
American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest Provide in-depth training for agencies in St. Louis and Carlton counties on environmental assessment for Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control activities.
Cycles for Change Organize youth-led weekly rides to encourage healthy transportation choices.
Ecolibrium3 Educate homeowners on environmental problems in the home that can impact health and how to mitigate them.
Headwaters Regional Development Commission Educate homeowners on safe and healthy homes and provide resources for improvements.
Project Sweetie Pie Pilot Youth Cafe celebrating a summer of Gardens Galore, the seeding of North Minneapolis through scattered community gardens.
Rebuilding Together Twin Cities Work with the Hmong community to keep families safe in their homes.
Spring Lake Park Fire Department Organize a community event at Scotland Green Apartments to educate residents, provide safety equipment, and create a safer environment.
The Sierra Club North Star Chapter Create Citizen Summits that will increase effective citizen advocacy for transit oriented development.
Wadena County Public Health Organize an event with local rental property owners and managers to build relationships and information on healthy rental properties.

For greater details, please see mini grantee updates below.

 

Ecolibrium3: Translating Healthy Homes

Under a mini-grant from the Alliance for Healthy Homes, Ecolibrium3, a Duluth-based nonprofit organization is creating customer friendly healthy homes reporting to accompany their current energy audit reports.  Over the past two years, Ecolibrium3 has audited over 600 homes in northeastern Minnesota.

“Our goal is to help people make their homes more healthy and comfortable through integrating energy improvements with best healthy homes practices” said Ecolibrium3 CEO Jodi Slick.  “The Alliance has helped us translate what may seem complicated, into easily understood assistance for our residents.”

Under the mini-grant, Ecolibrium3 has taken the HUD Healthy Homes Inspection report, which utilizes a complex matrix of statistics to project the potential of a structure to cause future illness or injury, and combined it with narrative action steps.  “HUD focuses on the structure.” Slick said, “Our work is attempting to integrate the structural with the behavioral by showing residents the potential health impacts associated with how they are using their homes. This includes items like tripping hazards, indoor smoking, and cleanliness.”

Creating clear action steps for homeowners became a priority for Ecolibrium3 when they worked with 150 low-income families that were flooded in June 2012. “When you walk people through disaster recovery, you really get to understand how housing systems and homeowner behaviors interact to create positive or negative health results.” Slick said.

Ecolibrium3 is currently piloting the report with test clients. A copy of the reporting format and action narratives are expected to be available to Alliance members by the end of December.

Ecolibrium3

 

Alliance for Sustainability

More than 300 Bloomington residents participated in the Bloomington Sustainability Fair Sept. 28 at Bloomington Civic Plaza.

The event was organized by the Bloomington Sustainability Coalition, Alliance for Sustainability, Center for Energy and Environment and Metro CERTS, with support from the Alliance for Healthy Homes and Communities.

More than 20 organizations specializing in energy, environmental health, water, transportation, waste reduction and gardening participated in the fair, providing demonstrations and games to educate about their organization. 200 residents pledged actions to make their homes more healthy and energy efficient.  In conjunction with the fair there were community bike rides at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, across the street from civic plaza, as well as a bike safety rodeo.  Learn more at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bloomington-Sustainability-Coalition/113224145507502

 With support from the Alliance for Healthy Homes and Communities, the Alliance for Sustainability brought together volunteer teams from 10 metro communities together on November 12 the League of MN Cities to share ways to increase resident engagement in energy conservation and community health inititatives.

 Many approaches, one core belief: reduce our carbon footprint
Sustainability forum sparks ideas for engaging citizens

Citizens and communities across the metro region are stepping up to create a more environmentally sustainable future.

These 21st century activists talk easily of peak oil, source separated organics, permaculture, and descending the energy curve. Most use social media to keep their communities informed. Some gather just once a year to host a community environmental fair; others have ongoing plans and actions.

Several metro cities are among 57 in Minnesota engaged in the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s MN GreenStep City program. Other activists are proponents of the Transition Town movement. All depend on networking, support from other organizations and each other, and time and volunteers that are sometimes sparse.

And virtually all believe that their community – and its individual residents – must reduce their carbon footprints.

Thirteen sustainability advocates, representing environmental groups in a variety of metro communities, gathered on Nov. 14 to share successes and cautions in their pursuit of community engagement. They came away with some new tools, different ideas, and a shared challenge: how to increase the number of residents interested, educated, and active in environmental issues.

“Citizen environmental groups take several forms,” said Sean Gosiewski, executive director of the Alliance for Sustainability (AFORS), which hosted the event, titled Conversation on Community Engagement. “In the metro region, some groups are autonomous, like Lakeville Friends of the Environment. Others, like St. Louis Park or Falcon Heights, are official environmental commissions, sponsored by their city councils.”

Among those engaged in the Nov. 14 dialogue, three environmental groups, representing St. Louis Park, Minneapolis’ Longfellow neighborhood, and Bloomington, reflect varied communities engaging their residents in different ways. 

St. Louis Park joins GreenStep, forms commission

This first-ring suburb west of Minneapolis has an estimated 45,000 residents and is a GreenStep city. In 2013, sustainability efforts were made “official” with the establishment of a new Environment and Sustainability Commission, said Terry Gips, a commission member. He said the group is finalizing its work plan, which will be submitted to the City Council in January. Highlights include:

  • Conduct a future workshop on sustainability.
  • Use the Natural Step Framework for Sustainability, and include residents, congregations and businesses in the Framework’s community-wide ABCD process (awareness, baseline assessment, creating a sustainability vision, and developing an action plan).
  • Support city staff in elevating St. Louis Park’s GreenStep City beyond level 1.
  • Continue offering several events, including a remodeling fair and landscaping workshop.
  • Utilize St. Louis Park’s strong neighborhood network.

Transition Longfellow sprouts from grassroots

Leslie MacKenzie and Annette Rondano explained that their group was founded in Minneapolis’ Longfellow neighborhood three years ago after 25 neighbors attended an AFORS-sponsored appearance by Richard Heinberg. Heinberg, of the Post Carbon Institute, is one of the world’s foremost “peak oil” educators (the theory is that peak oil is the point at which the Earth’s oil supply will begin diminishing).

The group – which follows the Transition Town model – works to engage the 5,300 people living in Longfellow, in southeast Minneapolis. The group has two core activities or groups:

  • The First Saturday group currently is focusing on Permaculture and Charge Your Yard, or “more growing, less mowing,” said MacKenzie.
  • The Third Friday group is a free movie night and potluck, held gratis at a local church. The group picks a topic or mini-challenge, researches it during the month, and discusses it as a group. Attendance can range from 6 to 25.
  • Members number 204 on their Facebook page, which includes a master gardener and a neighborhood solar installer.
  • Social gatherings with sustainability education, plans and activities have worked well for Transition Longfellow, said MacKenzie. Her own website and blog, http://thinkofitasanadventure.com/, is an informative and fun sustainability mix of discussion, resources, and  writing.

Bloomington Sustainability Coalition conducts fairs, surveys, solar festival

The Bloomington Sustainability Coalition is autonomous, “although it has created good relationships with the city’s elected officials,” said Terry Houle who, along with John Crampton, represented the group. The Coalition reaches out to the city’s estimated 85,000 residents. Recent activities have included:

  • Hosting a sustainability fair at City Hall with 400-500 attendees.
  • Conducting a non-partisan Bloomington Sustainability candidate survey this fall, asking those running for office to express their views regarding bike trails, their general approach to sustainability, and the prospect of organized garbage collection. “Right now we have dueling garbage trucks, which make a lot of noise, burn a lot of fuel, and are prematurely aging our streets,” said Crampton.
  • Leading with community solar to engage residents, churches, and businesses, including a community solar festival in January 2014.
  • Measuring to establish baseline carbon footprint data for the city.
  • Continuing the success of Bloomington’s Green Congregation Coalition, established a year ago with 12-15 congregations participating. “One congregation has installed LED lighting as well as solar panels that produce twice as much energy as needed,” said Crampton. “It’s visionary, what they’ve done.”

Other community sustainability groups who participated in the Nov. 12 event included:

  • Transition All St. Anthony Park
  • Environment Commission, Falcon Heights
  • Minneapolis Community Environmental Advisory Committee
  • Edina Energy and Environment Commission
  • White Bear Lake Environmental Advisory Commission
  • Citizens for Sustainability, City of St. Anthony
  • Lakeville Friends of the Environment
  • Brooklyn Center Earth Fest

Resource organizations and experts were also available, offering information and updates. Mae Davenport, associate professor, Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota, introduced a tool for assessing community capacity. Others participating in the forum, including AFORS, were:

Gosiewski said that in supporting local leaders working to make their communities more sustainable, one of AFORS’ goals “is to get every metro community to become an official GreenStep city, supported to do environmental work within their own city governments.”